For £150 a week, AirBnB users are invited to live in – and run – The Open Book store in Wigtown, Scotland
For all those who agree with Neil Gaiman’s maxim in American Gods that “a town isn’t a town without a bookstore”, and who yearn to spend their days amongst the pristine spines and glossy covers of a small bookshop, what might be the perfect holiday retreat has just been listed on AirBnB: the opportunity to become a bookseller for a week or two.
For the sum of £150 a week, guests at The Open Book in Wigtown, Scotland’s national book town, will be expected to sell books for 40 hours a week while living in the flat above the shop. Given training in bookselling from Wigtown’s community of booksellers, they will also have the opportunity to put their “own stamp” on the store while they’re there. “The bookshop residency’s aim is to celebrate bookshops, encourage education in running independent bookshops and welcome people around the world to Scotland’s national book town,” says the AirBnB listing.
The Open Book is leased by the Wigtown book festival from a local family. Organisers have been letting paying volunteers run the shop for a week or two at a time since the start of the year, but opened the experience up to the world at large this week when they launched what they are calling “the first ever bookshop holiday experience” on AirBnB.
“I wouldn’t call it a working holiday,” said Adrian Turpin, director of the Wigtown book festival. “It’s a particular kind of holiday [for people] who don’t feel that running a bookshop is work. It’s not about cheap labour – it’s about offering people an experience … It’s one of those great fantasies.”
The money is “just essentially to cover our costs”, said Turpin, admitting that “it can be a hard life, selling books in a small town, so it’s not a holiday for everybody”.
“I suspect [the shop] would have closed, without this,” he said. “Wigtown is Scotland’s national book town, but it’s quite a long way from anywhere. So part of the idea was to get new people in – people who would hopefully end up having a good time and a long-standing relationship with the town. And also to keep the bookshop afloat. It might otherwise have shut down.”